In the event of a large fire, as with weather emergencies, residents are advised to listen to weather radios, check media sources for alerts and updates and to pay attention to their surroundings.
With the massive fire in south Clovis and Melrose on Sunday, Emergency Management Director Ken De Los Santos said he was in touch with local media outlets to get word to residents about the situation.
The fire, which started in Melrose around 11 a.m., consumed an estimated 17,000 acres on its way east into south Clovis, burning into the night.
At least one home is confirmed to have been burned with damage estimates still being compiled.
Sunday morning, De Los Santos said the National Weather Service issued a fire weather warning to let people know there was a heightened fire risk.
By afternoon he said he was responding to media calls and giving updates that were broadcast on local radio and the Internet.
When the decision was made to evacuate specific areas, he said alerts went out through the media and responders knocked on doors to let people know it was time to move.
“Because of how quickly it was moving there was some of that door-to-door notification,” he said. “We used all the resources that we have for that type of incident.”
In some cases, residents made the decision to evacuate on their own because they observed conditions changing rapidly.
“I’ve gotten some reports that some people just loaded their animals and stuff and moved away from it,” he said. “Yesterday was so unusual because of the speed and the intensity.”
Residents who observe conditions worsening in a fire situation are advised to use common sense and make safety decisions as appropriate, such as evacuating and moving animals.
Fire emergencies work differently than tornado and other weather incidents in the way conditions change rapidly.
“Once the event is active it just depends on which way it’s going. We’re going to count on the media to help relay that information,” he said.
But alerts only reach listening ears and if people aren’t around to hear them, they aren’t as effective, he said.
A unique dynamic that unfolded Sunday was word of the blaze spread through the Internet on Facebook and Twitter, De Los Santos said.
While the accuracy of information can go both ways with social networking, he said it is helpful at the very least because, “It just kind of heightens that awareness that there’s a fire.”
The city of Clovis and the National Weather Service both have facebook pages where emergency alerts are posted real-time.
De Los Santos said in addition to helping spread the word, his office helped coordinate resources and assistance for responders, providing food and water and establishing shelters for evacuees.
He said only one family requested assistance in Clovis on Sunday night and two shelters created at local churches were unused.